Fall Lecture Series 2021 Detail

Accelerated Domestication of Intermediate Wheatgrass as a Perennial Grain by Dr. Lee DeHaan

– Part of the CDA Fall Lecture Series.


Speaker: Lee DeHaan 

Director of Crop Improvement/Lead Scientist

Kernza® Domestication Program



Symbiosis – hosted by Prof. Jesse Poland



Agricultural production of food crops is facing a wide array of challenges, including soil erosion, leaching of nutrients into ground and surface waters, declining soil health, and an increasingly erratic climate. Perennial crops are uniquely suited to enhance soil quality, conserve nutrients, and withstand unpredictable weather conditions. However, nearly all staple crops that provide the bulk of calories consumed by the human population are annuals. Therefore, perennial grain crops will need to be developed through wide hybridization of existing crops or direct domestication of wild perennial species. Thinopyrum intermedium (intermediate wheatgrass) has been the target of domestication for use as a grain crop since the late 1980s. In recent years, modern approaches have been applied to increase the rate of domestication of this species. A high quality genome has been assembled, and several independent genomic selection programs are underway. The critical domestication traits of nonshattering and free threshing have been nearly fixed in advanced breeding populations. At current rates, traits such as grain yield and seed size will require decades of work to create varieties with yield similar to domestic grain crops, so methods to further accelerate progress are needed. In the meantime, agronomic and utilization research is underway to develop techniques for producing consistent yields and including the grain in food and beverage products for human consumption. 


About the Speaker

Lee DeHaan obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, with majors in Biology and Plant Science. He obtained MS and PhD degrees in the areas of Agronomy and Applied Plant Science from the University of Minnesota. In 2001, Dr. DeHaan began a program to develop perennial wheat at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Currently, he leads a project there to develop intermediate wheatgrass into a perennial grain crop, which is marketed as Kernza®. The program now has collaborators working at institutions around the United States, Canada and Europe. 


This event occurred in the past. You can watch the recording on our YouTube Channel.


Lee DeHaan

Director of Crop Improvement/Lead Scientist, Kernza® Domestication Program

Event Quick Information

18 Nov, 2021
03:00 PM - 04:30 PM